Whew! The crush of news about climate over the past few days was breathtaking:
First, late Friday night, details finally rolled out about what exactly the Kerry-Boxer climate-change bill in the Senate says. Journos were scrambling around ’til all hours trying to figure it out, and even today the smoke is still clearing.
David Roberts at Grist had an incisive if bleary-eyed look at why the common wisdom — that Kerry-Boxer is more ambitious than the House’s Waxman-Markey — is wrong.
On Saturday — even as the journos were still slaving over the details of Kerry-Boxer — worldwide demonstrations called attention to the need to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide to a pre-industrial level of 350 parts CO2 per million parts of atmosphere.
Today folks in D.C. are still scurrying around trying to find out what this Kerry-Boxer thing says. It starting to sound like both the House and Senate bills allow lots of offsets for industries to get out of the greenhouse gas caps — offsets that may not, in fact, do anything to reduce global warming (so-called “anyways” offsets for stuff that was going on already.)
Lobbyists for industry are saying the analysis coming from the government is questionable. For example, Frank Maisano of the Bracewell & Giuliani firm charged in his weekly note advancing D.C. goings-on:
There are a few flaws in EPA’s analysis. Besides using insufficient models and old data, there are overlapping mandates and caps that will increase cost and diminish the effectiveness of the trading system. . . . The EPA analysis also assumes a recession to keep baseline energy growth rates low in order to minimize the economic impact of the carbon cap. EPA continues to make unrealistic assumptions on CCS Deployment and nuclear power, and in fact, double counts some energy efficiency gains. Finally EPA assumes a fully functioning offset program (very questionable at best) and imposes an auction system that will impose costs on consumers twice.
I checked with some fellow journos covering this in D.C. and haven’t found anyone yet who is familiar enough with the details to say if Maisano’s right or not. The lobbyists, yes, are ahead of the journos, I’m afraid. But if the journos are confused, I’m guessing senators and their staffs aren’t eager to plunge ahead with legislation they can’t really understand. It certainly doesn’t suggest a quick resolution.
Bottom line for all this is that, even with the Senate Energy and Public Works Committee holding hearings this week on Kerry-Boxer, markup probably won’t start until sometime early next month. And with the health-care legislation ahead of climate on Congress’ agenda, U.S. negotiators won’t have much definitive to point to when they reach the global climate-change talks in Copenhagen in December.
The chances of a climate change treaty being signed in Copenhagen are fading fast as it emerges that the US legislature is running out of time to agree on targets and that critical issues – including targets for the developed world, financing for the developing world and the agreement’s legal language – remain unresolved.
Although British Prime Minister Gordon Brown claimed this month that there was no plan B, the major participants have begun manoeuvring on how to stage-manage failure at Copenhagen and to set a new deadline for a treaty.
Now, there may be some action at COP15 in Copenhagen. For instance, it’s likely that negotiators may make progress on halting tropical deforeststation (which is 20 percent of the climate-change problem) and fixing the failed clean development mechanism (see offsets discussion, above).
And, who knows? Grist.org just moved a story saying U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, speaking right here in Rain City, vowed to press the Senate to pass something before December. He didn’t elaborate much, Jonathan Hiskes reports, just offered:
I’m going to engage myself with not only government leaders but with senators of the United States.